The colour on the little Jeeplet you see before you is called Jungle Green. It’s a great-looking, non-metallic shade that seems most appropriate on a vehicle whose brand has a history of go-anywhere, do-anything ruggedness. If you’ve got to drive through a jungle, a Jeep is one of very few vehicles you’d want to do it in.
The only jungle this tiny 4x4 is suited for is the urban jungle.
But this Renegade, with its platform shared with a Fiat 500X, is more of a Jeep Lite. And in our tester’s 75th Anniversary Edition trim, it’s not Trail Rated like the Trailhawk model is, which means the only jungle this tiny 4x4 is suited for is the urban jungle.
No matter, that urban jungle is where many Jeeps (even many of the jacked-up Wrangler Mall Crawlers) spend their time these days anyway. So we put our little green machine to the test with a few trips into the gnarliest of urban jungles around: Toronto. And we did it during rush hour.
With its tidy dimensions and upright boxy shape, the Renegade is pretty happy even in the confines of the deepest, darkest city where it fits in compact parking spots with ease. The infotainment system features a large screen for the back-up camera (a $450 option), but Jeep doesn’t bother putting the digital reference lines that help to give perspective for the distorted wide-angle lens. A greater navigational challenge comes from the A-, B- and D-pillars that are alarmingly large, obstructing a considerable amount of the outward visibility along the side and rear three-quarter views.
The short wheelbase means that on the highway, the Renegade is a bit darty, though with its decent steering feel and feedback, it’s actually a nimble handler. Grip from the Goodyear tires was also impressive for a tall 4x4 (Bridgestone tires are an alternative for the Renegade). The ride is firm, yet strangely allows considerable roll and dive under braking, so we never wanted to really hustle the Renegade, but then, neither will most owners.
Our Renegade was fitted with the larger 2.4L Tigershark engine that creates 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque – figures that are competitive in the cute-ute class. However, hauling over 1,500 kg and being saddled with Jeep’s nine-speed transmission that never seems to know which gear it needs to be in, the Renegade’s acceleration is timid, particularly at highway speeds when one might be looking to pass slower traffic.
This drivetrain is not particularly fuel efficient either, with a government combined rating of 9.8 L/100 km. During 750 km of driving, the trip computer reported an average of 10.6 L/100 km with a mix of city traffic and highway. For a four-wheel-drive SUV, that figure isn’t too offensive, but the bigger problem comes from the Renegade’s tiny 48 L fuel tank which drains down to the fuel warning light level within only 400 km – a pitiful range.
Inside, there’s better news. The ergonomics are generally quite good with large, highly visible primary gauges (though the orange paint splat as a tachometer red line is a little over-the-top). There are big knobs and dials for operating key climate and stereo functions and the Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system is very straightforward in operation. Plus, the Beats audio system is surprisingly clean and powerful in sound.
And of course, being a Jeep product, there are visual Easter Egg treats to find all over, from little Jeep icons climbing the edge of the windshield to the molded-in spider graphic in the fuel filler surround who says “Ciao Baby!” Jeep’s marketing team is surely doing their job for brand reinforcement with this little rig.
The front seats are supportive and comfortable, although the passenger seat seems to be positioned more inset than the driver’s side, forcing the passenger’s left knee into the console. Rear seat space is sufficient for children, or two average-sized adults with reasonable legroom available. Thanks to the Renegade’s polarizing and cartoonish styling, headroom is ample both front and back.
Speaking of ample headroom, you can maximize it with the My Sky Open Roof System option – part of the $2,495 Jeep 75th Anniversary Package that also includes bronze trim bits and special wheels. Remember all the inconvenience of T-Top roofs from the 1980s? Well apparently Jeep has forgotten how distasteful they were and brought the misery back with the My Sky Open Roof System.
During our week with the Renegade, there were a few occasions where the weather was just right to motor around with an open sunroof. Unfortunately, to expose your hair to the elements with this package, one must first locate a particular (Jeep-branded) key in the cargo area and unlock the first roof panel. Lift the panel off and store it in the special vinyl bag in the cargo hold. Want the other panel off too? Repeat the same steps. Ten frustrating minutes later and you’ll be set to drive al fresco. We did this process only once when we had nothing else in the trunk and plenty of time at the start and end of our trip to fiddle with this nonsense.
The Renegade sits in a popular category that has exploded with new competitors showing seemingly every other day. And there seem to be countless different interpretations as to what makes the best subcompact SUV. Some are spry and sporty, others are luxurious and practical, while this Jeep tries to come off as a more square-jawed and rugged alternative, playing mostly on the Jeep name.
With nearly $10,000 in options and upgrades over a base model Renegade North 4X4, this 75th Anniversary Edition rings in just under $40,000 – no small sum for a vehicle in this class that is admittedly well-equipped, but still lacking leather seats. And with its appearance such as it is, the Jeep Renegade is very much a love-it-or-leave-it affair. If its boxy shape works for you and you’re smitten with the Jeep brand, it could be the right choice to tackle your particular urban jungle.
Competitors:Chevrolet Trax Fiat 500X Honda HR-V Mazda CX-3 Mini Cooper Countryman Nissan Juke Subaru Crosstrek
|2016 Jeep Renegade 75th Anniversary Edition 4x4|
|Engine Displacement: 2.4L|
|Engine Cylinders: I4|
|Peak Horsepower: 180 hp|
|Peak Torque: 175 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy: 11.2/8.0/9.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space: 524 L/1,438 L, rear seats folded|
|2016 Jeep Renegade 75th Anniversary Edition 4x4|
|Base Price $28,995|
|A/C Tax $100|
|Destination Fee $1,795|
|Price as Tested $39,610|
|Optional Equipment $8,720 – 75th Anniversary Package (includes special wheels, badging, Beats Audio system, My Sky Open Air Roof System) $2,495; Cold Weather Group (includes heated seats, heated steering wheel, Rain-sensing windshield wipers, all-season floor mats) $795; Trailer Tow Group $350; Safety & Security Group (includes tonneau cargo cover, security alarm, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection) $890; Premium Navigation Group $1,100; Popular Equipment Group (includes split folding rear seat, auto dimming rearview mirror, dual zone climate control, 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, power driver’s seat) $850; 9-speed automatic transmission $1,495; Full-size spare tire $295; Back-up camera $450|